German chancellor Angela Markel has warned the EU needs to prepare for a no-deal Brexit.
Addressing members of parliament inthe Bundestag, the long-serving leader said the EU ‘must and should prepare for a situation in which an agreement does not happen’.
Merkel’s warning come as trade talks between Brussels and London begin to founder as both sides fail to reach agreement on issues such as the level playing field, fisheries, and the role of the European Court of Justice.
‘The progress made during the negotiations have been, to put it mildly, minimal. With Great Britain, we have agreed to speed up these negotiations to be able to agree on a deal in autumn, which would then also need to be ratified until the end of the year,’ she observed.
Naomi Smith from Best for Britain, a pro-EU lobby group, said that the ‘statement highlights two deeply worrying patterns’.
‘The first is the continued lack of progress, despite the government refusing to extend the transition period. It is clear from all the available data that a failure to secure a comprehensive trade deal with the EU by the end of the year would amount to throwing what limited economic recovery we see in the second half of 2020 down the drain.
‘The second is how unprepared we are in the UK for the possibility of that failure. Some preparations for leaving without a deal were carried out last year, but those provisions have been swallowed by the need to combat coronavirus. Reserve stockpiles of vital medicines, for example, are now empty.
She urged UK negotiators to end trade talks with a deal.
‘If the government is serious about getting this country back on its feet and levelling up our economy, it must start to negotiate in good faith to secure the ‘comprehensive trade deal’ promised to voters at the last election as part of the Conservative manifesto,’ she said.
Officials from both sides met face-to-face in Brussels for the first time since the outbreak of Covid-19 on Monday, kick-starting a new round of accelerated Brexit negotiations.
The deadline for an extension has now passed meaning Britain will now exit the transition period on December 31.